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State of the race for Tory leadership

The current six runners will be whittled down to two candidates by Thursday at the latest.

Tory leadership contenders (PA)
Tory leadership contenders (PA)

The race to become Conservative leader is entering the final week of selection by MPs, with the field continuing to narrow.

Four of the six current riders will be forced out before the end of the week in a series of votes by their parliamentary colleagues, leaving the final two to go head-to-head for votes from the Tory grassroots.

So what is the current state of play – who has the most backers, who is the smart money on and who could prove to be a dark horse?

Boris Johnson

The first round of voting saw Mr Johnson sprinting far ahead of all his rivals, with 114 backers, and he remains the frontrunner with odds of 1/6 at Betfair Exchange.

His betting odds have continued to rise despite criticism of his media avoidance strategy, including refusing to debate in Sunday’s hustings on Channel 4 and another with Westminster lobby journalists on Monday.

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(PA Graphics)

The former foreign secretary has seven Cabinet colleagues supporting him so far, including Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Former leadership candidate Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, pulled out on Friday and has decided to back Mr Johnson, in a blow to his competitor Michael Gove.

Jeremy Hunt

The Foreign Secretary secured 43 votes in the first round and is set to do well this week, with odds of 21/1 on Betfair Exchange.

A solid performance in his current job sets him apart from Mr Johnson, who has faced criticism over his role in the continuing imprisonment of British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but Mr Hunt has come under fire for his stance on abortion.

Cabinet backers include Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Business Secretary Greg Clark.

Michael Gove

The Environment Secretary won 37 votes in the first round and has odds of 45/1 on Betfair Exchange.

He managed to weather a hypocrisy storm last weekend over his admission he took cocaine, despite writing about how he disagreed with “London’s liberal consensus” on loosening drugs laws.

Mr Gove has amassed support from four Cabinet colleagues – Education Secretary Damian Hinds, Scottish Secretary David Mundell, Energy Minister Claire Perry and Commons Leader Mel Stride.

Dominic Raab

The former Brexit secretary missed a podium position in the first round of voting, gaining 27 votes.

Controversial comments about being willing to prorogue Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit became a lightning rod for criticism by fellow candidates at the Channel 4 hustings on Sunday.

Mr Raab has odds of 109/1 on Betfair Exchange and no Cabinet backers yet, with much of his support, including from hard Brexiteers who had previously expressed support for him, apparently leaching away to Mr Johnson.

Sajid Javid

The Home Secretary won 23 votes from MPs in the first round  and currently has odds of 129/1 with Betfair Exchange.

Seen as a dark horse who could make an unexpected late surge due to his everyman credentials, being the only candidate not to have attended public school or an Oxbridge university and the son of a bus driver.

He has three Cabinet backers, who are Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright and Universities Minister Chris Skidmore.

Rory Stewart

The International Development Secretary squeaked through the initial rounds with 19 MPs backing him.

Another dark horse, although he started with odds of 100/1 he is now at a canter with odds of 12/1 on Betfair Exchange.

He has not shied away from confrontation, denouncing Mr Raab’s desire to prorogue Parliament, and has won plaudits for a campaign where he has been speaking to the public in various parts of London.

The newest member of Cabinet, Mr Stewart has managed to win a backer in Justice Secretary David Gauke.

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